Welcome, Cecelia Johnson-Powell


United Way of the Mid-South is pleased to announce Cecelia Johnson-Powell as its Driving The Dream Program Director, after an extensive search for the newly created leadership position. Johnson-Powell will lead our Driving the Dream (DTD) initiative which creates, facilitates and monitors an accountable system of care, comprised of DTD Network Partner agencies, a client-centered approach, multi-domain assessment tools and a shared data platform. The DTD initiative is a collaboration across a wide array of programs and services, with the goal of improving the effectiveness of service delivery by seamlessly, intentionally, and efficiently moving individuals and their families toward economic self-sufficiency and other life goals which they, the clients, identify.

Ceceilia has been admired for her work for many years in Memphis. While quiet in nature, she’s noted as one of the most resounding voices against poverty and antiquated systems that prevent individuals and families from access and opportunities.

About Cecelia Johnson-Powell, Driving the Dream Program Director

Cecelia has over 20 years of service in the public and nonprofit sector. A valiant change agent, she graduated from Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Cecelia has been a general in challenging systems and dismantling obstacles that suppress the opportunities of the disadvantaged and marginalized. Before coming to United Way of the Mid-South, Cecelia has worked with United Way of Central Indiana, Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, Indianapolis Public Schools, Friends for Life and Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association.

Cecelia has been a driver of developing, funding and evaluating better programs, better processes and better outcomes in early childhood, youth development, affordable housing, emergency assistance, weatherization, emergency shelter, and community development, at the local, state and national levels. 

She is particularly proud of her work to create and launch United Way of Central Indiana’s Childcare for Working Families Fund and Success by 6 initiative, both of which continue to have an ongoing impact in that community for families living in poverty looking to attain and maintain meaningful employment. Cecelia’s current community commitments include the Governing Council of the Memphis/Shelby County Continuum of Care and chair of the Emergency Housing Partnership.

Before entering her new role, Cecilia has been part of the Driving The Dream design team over the past several months and has been an important voice of experience in regards to understanding the emergency services/homeless population sector as well as in understanding the broader system-level lens required to orchestrate the sector integration of the Driving The Dream network.

In her most recent tenure as Director of Program Performance and then Vice President of Family Programs for Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA), one of Memphis’ largest and most respected human services providers, Cecilia took a systems-approach and a commitment to the use of data to assess performance to undergird a culture shift among program staff to better understand and be more sensitive to client needs.  She successfully led efforts to streamline customer processes and to prioritize the use of robust data through a significant customization of the CoActionNet data platform in order to track customer interactions and measure success for more than 10,000 families served annually.  She restructured the organization’s emergency services assessment and resolution process and, in doing so, increased staff efficiencies and improved integration with the community-wide homeless coalition. To assess administrative and programmatic performance, Cecilia pioneered the use of metrics dashboards and data visualization. 

Her life’s philosophy is, “At the end of the day, buy into the dream and get to work. Nothing is impossible.”

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